Monday, March 9, 2009

Vitamin D reduces joint pain!

This interesting snippet appeared in the Houston Chronicle a few days back as a part of a question and answer session with Dr. Mitchell Hecht. “A couple of weeks ago, my husband saw his endocrinologist, and the doctor ordered a test of his vitamin D level. It was very low, so my husband was put on 2,000 units per day. My Husband has been having pain in his shoulder with a limited range of motion. An orthopedic surgeon told him he had a tear in his rotator cuff and the only option was surgery. In less than a week and a half on the vitamin D supplement, he has no pain and full range of motion. This is like a miracle! I think we need a second opinion on that surgery.”

As Dr. Hecht pointed out, it is unlikely that vitamin D could reverse a rotator-cuff tear, so there must have been a misdiagnosis. A rotator cuff tear is something that cannot be fixed without surgery, so it is likely that the pain was due to inflammation in the joint due to arthritis. As my posts have previously documented, vitamin D is a potent anti-inflammatory hormone. The total recovery from pain, along with a recovery of full range of motion, was likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Chalk up one more victory for this amazing hormone!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Will your statin drug kill you? Is vitamin D a better choice for preventing heart disease?

Drs BA Golomb and MA Evans recently wrote a review of the many papers that dealt with the adverse effects of statins, an immensely popular (and profitable) class of drugs that lowers blood cholesterol levels.[1] One of the potential little side effects is rhabdomyolysis, a devastating muscle-wasting disease described by Stedman’s Medical dictionary as “an acute, fulminant, potentially fatal disease that destroys skeletal muscle and is often accompanied by the excretion of myoglobin in the urine.” Others side effects are cognitive loss (decreased ability to think soundly), neuropathy (nerve deterioration), pancreatic and liver dysfunction and sexual dysfunction. The authors also mentioned that most physicians are unaware of these problems.

I recently commissioned research that shows that most physicians, as well as their patients are woefully ignorant of the importance of vitamin D. So how do the two tie together? In an earlier post on heart disease, I cited the research by Dr Ed Giovannucci and his colleagues at Harvard.[2] They showed that men with the lowest levels of serum (blood) vitamin D were about 2.4 times as likely to suffer a heart attack as those whose levels were highest. They also showed that those with the lowest vitamin D levels also had the lowest HDL, the “good cholesterol.” As also pointed out in my earlier blogs, vitamin D has the ability to reduce arterial calcification and reduce inflammation, both risk factors for heart disease.

Vitamin D also increases muscle strength rather than reducing it and increases fertility in men and women as well as protecting the nervous system and enhancing cognitive abilities. This can all be done for about $15 per year worth of supplementation, and sunlight is free. Compare that to the thousands of dollars required to poison oneself with statin drugs. Which way would you like to bet? Remember to check with your doctor before reducing or changing medications, as withdrawal could also be dangerous. Meanwhile, stop eating junk food and get some healthful outdoor exercise!

[1] Golomb BA, Evans MA. Statin adverse effects: a review of the literature and evidence for a mitochondrial mechanism. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2008;8(6):373-418.
[2] Giovannucci, E. et al. 25-hydroxy-vitamin D and risk of myocardial infarction in men. Ann Intern Med 2008;168:1174-80.

Can sunlight reduce the risk of type-one diabetes in children?

A recent study conducted in Newfoundland, Canada, compared sunlight exposure at different times and locations to the risk of type-one diabetes in children.[i] As I would have expected, the children who received the least sunlight were at greatest risk for type-one diabetes. Sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D, so the results were probably exactly what the researchers anticipated. Why should they have anticipated that result? An earlier study showed that among children who were supplemented with 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily, the risk of type-on diabetes was only 1/5 of the risk among children who were supplemented with less than 2,000 IU.[ii] Among those who were not supplemented at all, the risk was 8 times greater.

“Protecting” children from the sunlight is creating a terrible burden of poor health, and type-one diabetes is only one of its many manifestations. Safe, non-burning sun exposure is an integral part of childhood that should not be neglected.

[i] Sloka, S. Time series analysis of ultraviolet B radiation and type 1 diabetes in Newfoundland. Pediatric Diabetes 2008:9:81–6.
[ii] Hypponen, E. et al. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet 2001;358:1500-03.

When is the safest time to sun tan?

I have never believed that the advice to stay out of the sunlight at midday was correct. Now, science is beginning to agree with me. Dr. J Moan and colleagues have explained that vitamin D production by the skin is much greater at midday than in early morning or late afternoon, and that the risk of developing melanoma is also much less at midday.[1]

This is thoroughly explained in my book; a greater percentage of UVA, which can cause damage to the lower layers of the skin, is available in the sunlight in the morning hours. A greater percentage of UVB that stimulates vitamin D production is available at midday. Therefore, the greatest potential for healthful D production and the least potential for damage occur at midday. The researchers stated it thusly: “To get an optimal vitamin D supplement from the sun at a minimal risk of getting cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM), the best time of sun exposure is noon. Thus, common health recommendations given by authorities in many countries, that sun exposure should be avoided for three to five hours around noon and postponed to the afternoon may be wrong and may even promote CMM.”

Let’s face it. Nearly everything we have been told by the sunscare/sunscreen industry is false. And remember that people who are regularly in the sunlight develop fewer melanomas than those who are cloistered indoors, as I have discussed in my previous posts. Another author has written a book called “Naked at Noon.” Sounds like she is on to something!

[1] Moan, J et al. At what time should one go out in the sun? Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;624:86-8.